Toyota will rely on several electrification technologies (Photo: Toyota)

Toyota Motor announced a commitment Monday to start selling a much broader range of full electric and other electrified vehicles in coming years, moving away from a heavy reliance on its pioneering hybrid-electric technology.

The Japanese car group said it aims to have annual sales of more than 5.5 million electrified vehicles by 2030, including more than 1 million battery-electric or fuel-cell powered cars. The group sold 10.09 million vehicles in 2016 and is slated to post a slight rise in unit sales in 2017.

By 2o25, Toyota said, it also will offer every Toyota and Lexus model with an electric-propulsion option. That year, it said in a statement, “the number of models developed without an electrified version will be zero.”

Toyota became the first major carmaker to build vehicles with a hybrid powertrain when it launched the Prius in 1997. Since then, it has banked heavily on hybrid technology, while in recent years developing a second electrification track based on fuel cells.

Now, with battery technology improving, the company is joining an industrywide trend that foresees a sharp rise in battery-electric vehicle sales.

Battery technology

Acknowledging how crucial battery technology will be for electric vehicles, Toyota said last week that it is joining forces with electronics group Panasonic to investigate whether so-called prismatic batteries can be used to improve EV performance in the future.

Prismatic batteries are thinner, weigh less and make better use of available space than cylindrical lithium-ion cells. But they also are more expensive to design and manufacture.

As part of its new electrification strategy, Toyota is speeding up the rollout of pure battery-electric vehicles. It will have more than 10 of these available worldwide by 2020, starting in China. The new pure EVs will subsequently be introduced in Japan, India, the US and Europe.

In addition, Toyota plans to expand its fuel-cell EV lineup in coming years, in the passenger-vehicle as well as the commercial vehicle segments. In 2014, Toyota started mass-producing the Mirai fuel-cell sedan.

Industrywide trend

The stronger focus on electrification is picking up speed across the industry.   

  • At the Frankfurt Auto Show in September, Volkswagen Group unveiled a new strategy to drive electrification across its model range and make sure it has access to the batteries needed to power its cars. The Volkswagen plan, named “Roadmap E,” calls for direct investments of more than 20 billion euros in technologies to put an electrified fleet on the road. Included are plans for two entirely new electric platforms, upgraded plants, a charging infrastructure and battery technology and production. And VW Group brands will bring 80 new electric vehicles to market by 2025.
  • Just last month, premium carmaker BMW announced a new competence center for battery cells near its Munich headquarters. The company, which plans to invest 200 million euros in the project over the next four years, said the commitment doesn’t mean it will actually produce battery sells itself. “By producing battery-cell prototypes, we can analyse and fully understand the cell’s value-creation processes,” said BMW’s head of manufacturing, Oliver Zipse. “The knowledge we gain is very important to us, regardless of whether we produce the battery cells ourselves, or not.” BMW wants to launch 20 new all-electric vehicles by 2023 
  • This summer, Volvo Cars, a subsidiary of China’s Geely, announced that, from 2019, every new Volvo car will have an electric motor on board. “People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs,” Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson said in July. The Swedish brand, together with its new Polestar performance unit, plans to launch five fully electric cars between 2019 and 2021.  
  • Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz also plans a big push. “”We will electrify the entire Mercedes lineup by 2022,” Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said at the IAA. He pledged “at least one electrified alternative” in each Mercedes model range. That means a line-up of more than 50 electrified model variants by 2022..  
  • US carmaker General Motors also recently provided fresh insights into its EV strategy. “General Motors believes in an all-electric future,” said Mark Reuss, GM’s executive vice president of product development, purchasing and supply chain. In the next 18 months, the carmaker plans to unveil two new all-electric vehicles that are part of a 20-car EV roadmap through 2023.  
  • Ford Motor recently unveiled a high-powered hybrid police car that is the second of 13 new EVs it plans to introduce over the next five years. Ford has earmarked 4.5 billion dollars for improving EV technology. “Electrifying our next generation of vehicles is core to our unwavering commitment to sustainability,” Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford’s Americas operations, said in April. 
  • Renault-Nissan, together with new partner Mitsubishi, sold a market-leading 424,797 EVs in 2016. The alliance, which recently announced a cooperation with partner Dongfeng to build EVs for the Chinese market, plans to launch 12 models with electric powertrains through 2022.  

-By Arjen Bongard